God Counts Those Men Discount


August 20, 2017

Pastor Mark Bradshaw

 

“It is not fair to take from the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

 

I think we can safely assume that our Lord is tired.

John had lost his head, and now Jesus has lost his cool.

And who can blame him, everytime he tries to get away for some quiet someone sees him, and before long there is a crowd pressing in.

 

The people are desperate and in need and Jesus is full of compassion and God has made it evident that through Jesus healing flows. Then one day Jesus decides he needs to get up and go, head to the coast and outside of the borders of Israel where he can enjoy that sweet Mediterranean breeze, put his feet in the sand and watch the sunset. Perhaps Jesus was feeling overwhelmed, weary under the weight of it all. The more people he healed the more aware he became of how many were still in need. For every lost sheep that our Good Shepherd carried back into the fold there seemed to be two new wolves, ready to devour. And so Jesus, feeling hemmed in, goes on a retreat. Jesus decides to practice a little self care, hoping for a certain level of anonymity. Yet, and notice this, whereas Jesus was seeking to find refreshment and renewal outside of his borders geographically, God sends someone to Jesus who is outside of his ethnic and social borders in order to get him back on track. To put it bluntly, God sends his Son a woman to set him straight… to expand his borders… to increase his imagination… to broaden his perspective.

 

In the television industry, it really has become a type of art to recap the previous episodes of a season, often in only 1-2 minutes, as a means of bringing the viewer up to speed. The current episode plays a specific role within the overall story and the reason for the opening recap is to refresh the audience’s memory as to how it relates to a few specific strands within the overall story line.  

 

Now, at first glance it is surprising that this morning’s Gospel made it past the final edits. Any of you wish this was a deleted scene, clearly out of character for Jesus?  And yet, as we may be standing here scratching our heads the observant disciple will discover that there is a trail of breadcrumbs that has been left for us to follow.

 

So here it is, our opening recap:

Jesus appointed how many disciples?

The women with the bleeding infirmary, who reached out and touched the hems of Jesus’ robe and was healed – how many years had she been sick?

That happened while Jesus was on his way to heal a young girl who was how many years old?

Okay, are you picking up what Matthew is shoveling? So, why 12?

  • 12 tribes of Israel.

So, in our Gospel this morning we heard Jesus’ words, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

 

And right after Jesus learns of John’s death he goes away to try and be alone and the crowds follow, he teaches them and then does not want to send them away hungry. With five loaves and two fishes how many people are fed? And here is the bonus question – how many basketfuls are left over?

Are we getting the point yet with 12?

 

Now, perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to think of the 12 basketfuls of broken pieces as the crumbs that were leftover, one for each tribe. I am picking up on a theme of abundance.

 

Okay, one last theme in our episode intro, this would have been our Gospel reading from last week – and I don’t know about you but I was more than happy to have Abbey veer off from the lectionary and give us her message! Yet, in the story of Jesus walking on water, summoning Peter to come and walk with him, I would have the cameras zoom in on Peter sinking as Jesus extends a hand and says, my paraphrase, “Man, you have such little faith!”

 

Okay, who is still with me? Did I lose anyone?

 

Jesus sets off for the coast, outside of Israel, he is tired and I imagine the Pharisees have really gotten under his skin, and then she shows up. A Canaanite, that godless group of people who inhabited the land before Israel came in and conquered it. A Canaanite woman, nonetheless, and she is desperate. Her daughter is tormented by a demon and she begins crying out for Jesus’ attention. “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. Jesus just ignores her. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”  Lord, just send her away.

 

Last week Abbey shared with us a profound poem by the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. Much of what I am about to share I gleaned from an article in the New Yorker written in April of this year. Pauli Murray, born in 1910, was ahead of her time. She sat in the wrong seat on the bus, participated in nonviolent demonstrations, and advocated for the equal treatment of all persons several decades before the civil rights movement. She began her life as an orphan and culminated it by becoming the first African American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. In high school, she was the only black among 4,000 students. She applied to the University of North Carolina and was denied admission because she had the wrong color of skin. Later she was denied admission to Harvard Law because she had the wrong gender.

 

While studying at Howard University Pauli was no longer excluded for the color of her skin but rather due to the fact that she had the unfortunate condition of being born a woman. She was the only woman among faculty and students and on the first day of class her professor was all too eager to humiliate her by remarking that he could think of no reason why a woman would desire to attend Law school. Thus, not only did Pauli resolve to become the top student in her class, which she was, but she also grew in her determination to end what she termed Jane Crow.

 

While at Howard a class discussion arose on how to best end Jim Crow. Plessy vs. Ferguson, the case that upheld segregation, used the phrase “separate but equal.” The class conversation was focused on the term “equal” and the men scoffed when Pauli dared to question the term “separate.” She proceeded to bet her professor $10 that within 25 years Plessy vs. Ferguson would be overturned, Pauli was right. But her law-school professor, Spottswood Robinson, would come to owe Pauli much more than $10. Pauli would go on to argue in her final law school paper that segregation violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. Years later Spottswood Robinson remembered Pauli’s paper and presented it to Thurgood Marshall and the remainder of his colleagues, the same group who successfully argued Brown vs. the Board of Education.  

 

Now, I would like to propose that Spottswood Robinson and Jesus of Nazareth both share something revolutionary in common. It is not that they both devoted themselves to the cause of justice, nor that they both were committed to advocating for those who society had discounted. Rather, what was revolutionary about these men, and worthy of emulation, is that they both were willing to eat crow. They both were willing to not only admit, but seemingly revel in the fact that a woman had set them straight.

 

Stepping back into our Gospel, up until this point we have grown accustomed to Jesus being the one who stumps the religious leaders, but in our Gospel this morning it this unnamed Canaanite woman who stumps Jesus. “It is not fair to take from the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.” She does not play the victim, she does not need to make Jesus into the villain. Rather, she takes what Jesus gives her and uses it to stump him. She gets creative.  – Jesus, isn’t it God’s table, and isn’t God a God of abundance? Jesus, your reference point is this group of children and you are wondering if there is going to be enough for them. My reference point is the merciful God who created us all, and all I need is a crumb from God’s table and my daughter will be made well. Jesus, isn’t your God bigger than that? And, move over Peter, Jesus looks at this woman and says, “Wow, how great is your faith.”

 

Back in that classroom at Howard University, as those young black men were debating what it means to be treated as equals, the one thing seemingly all men in power held in common, black and white, was that women were not equals. And if it has become hauntingly clear in the recent weeks that we have so much more to overcome for racial equality, let us equally remember how much more we must overcome for gender equality.

 

And just how many people were fed? Was it 5,000? Matthew makes a point of saying “5,000 besides women and children.” So, who was it that decided the women and the children did not count? If 15-20,000 children of God ate and were filled on that afternoon, who decided it was only the men who count? It wasn’t God.

 

God counts those the world counts out.

God counts those who men discount.

We can count on that.

 

We remember the saints who have gone before

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We would like the congregation’s help to update the list of our departed loved ones, whom we will honor in next Sunday’s All Saints service. Please reach out to Althea, Violet, or any vestry member with any additions or corrections.

The following is the list from our 2020 service.

Celeste Anderson 

Art Atkins 

Doris Atkins

Mildred Austin

Zuma Austin 

Harry L. Bailey 

Lois Bailey 

Joe Bailey 

Edna Banks

Leslie Banks

Sammie Banks

Norma Barnes

Rev. Alfred Barber

Rev. Leroy Barber

Louise Bartholomew

Susan Beck

Hattie Blanton

Cecilia Bloomfield

Elizabeth Boone

William Boone 

Eva Baxter 

Maybell Beal

Rev. Patricia Bennett

Betty Benson

Doris Biot

Bishop Frederick Borsch

John Bradshaw

George Branton

Mina Brown 

Dietra Burton

Janet Caldwell

Loretta Calloway

Grace Cargill

Louise Cargill

Doris Carter 

Eric Carter 

Raymond Clark

Zenobia Clark 

Cecil Clayton 

Iris Clayton

Arthur Cleaver Sr.

Arthur Cleaver Jr.

Ava Cleaver

Celestine Cleaver

Emanual Cleaver

Lowell Cleaver

Maude Cleaver

Thomas Cleaver

Audra Cobb 

Bobbye Coleman

Anita Conerly

Hattie Conerly

Leander Conerly

Leon Conerly 

Lerna Conerly

Jack Cosey 

Joyce Cox

Bernice Cummings

Erline Cummings

Sidney Cummings

Alberta Curtis

Claud Curtis

Bobbie Davis

James Davis

Earl Dickerson

Kathryn Dickerson

Anthony Dibrell

Valorie Dibrell 

Hardina Diggs

Kenneth Draver 

Nan Draver 

Leonice Dubin   

Bill Duncan

Flossie Duncan 

Louise Edwards 

Kathryn Fleming

Eddie Foster

Marie Foster

Annie Fulbright

Janice Fulbright

Marshall Fulbright Jr

James W. Glosson

Martina Lyles Glosson

Ann Goldingay

Ethel Green

Leolla Griffin

Richard Hartley

James Hash

Julia Hash

Judy Hash

Cornell Hatchett

Lena Belle Hicks

Lois Hicks

Christopher Hodgson

Esmeralda Hodgson

Rose Dunne Holland

Robin Holland 

Rev. Richard Horton

Gloria Mims Huffman

Heather Fulton

Carrie Hunter

Delroy Hunter

Arnita Jackson

Austin Jacques

Flossie Jacques

Bessie Johnson

Decker Johnson

George Jones 

Charles Jones

Ina Jones 

Melba Jones 

Shirley Jones

Margaret Joseph

Lottie Keith

Laura Kennedy

Lea Leroy

Doris Mackinnon

Joyce MacMurray

Alyce McClelland

Isaac McClelland

Carolyn McCullough

Marva Mcrae 

Claude McDaniel Jr.

Charlotte McShann

Delores Miller 

Claude Mims 

Deloris Mims 

Don L. Mims 

Gloria Mims

Kim Laura Mims 

Leroy Mims Sr. 

Leroy Mims Jr. 

Lillian C. Mims 

Joseph Mims Sr. 

Joseph Mims Jr 

Julian Mims

Patsy Mims 

Rosebud Mims

Lorraine Mitchell

Carolyn Moore

James Moore

Jack Moore

Lora Jacques Moore

Margerie Moore

Rev. Jesse Moses 

Jane Strong Moses

Elizabeth Mounday

Seward Mounday

Faye Nichols

Elizabeth Nicholson

Frank Nicholson

Lucita Nicholson

Stanford Nicholson

Rev. Alfred Norman 

Eddie Norman 

Lorraine Norman

Rev. Ivor Ottley

Amanda Patterson 

Evelyn Peak 

Carl Perry 

Selena Pendelton 

Mozella Perry

Alfonso Pierre

Edna Pierre 

Donny Powell

Hamlet Radcliff

Violet Ratliff 

Carrietta Reynolds 

Terry Reynolds

May Richardson 

Morton Richardson

Cecil Rose 

Miriam Salmon

Maurice Salmon

John Sandoz

Cordelia Scott

Florence Scott

Susie Sheridan

Robert Shotwell

Eddie Mae Shotwell

Mildred Singleton 

Abraham Smalling

Cecilio Smalling

Ivy Smalling

Geneva Spriggs 

John Steven 

Edward Strong 

Maudine Sykes 

Howard Teer 

Kathryn Teer

A.R. Traylor 

Carol Traylor 

Cynthia Traylor 

Mary Traylor 

Hallie Vollinck

Dorothy Wallace

Alfred White 

Roy E. Wiggins

Rev. Alfred Wilkins

Lydia Wilkins

Artis Williams

Carrie E Williams 

Eliza Williams 

Ella Jewell Williams

Harlaviour Williams 

Jonathan Williams Sr 

Linda Norman Williams

Silvester Williams

Willie Williams 

Winifred Williams 

Aldine Young

New Bible Study for Dementia Caregivers and Their Churches

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Morgan James’ new release, Finding Sanctuary in the Midst of Alzheimer’s: A Spiritual Guide for Families Facing Dementia, by Dr. Elizabeth Shulman, offers spiritual support for those caring for someone with dementia.

There are over sixteen million people caring for someone with dementia. Caregivers often endure stress and may struggle to find meaning in their role as a caregiver. This book addresses common challenges caregivers face using scripture and personal narratives. Done in a Bible study format with separate sections for spouses, adult children caring for a parent and those who want to provide support to a caregiver but don’t know how, Finding Sanctuary in the Midst of Alzheimer’s equips churches, senior living facilities and support groups with the tools to find hope and thrive as caregivers.

Caring for individuals with dementia requires patience, trust, and a willingness to meet their needs. Engaging with relevant scripture and listening to caregivers’ personal stories will empower participants in their caregiving journey, while offering respite and a sense of sanctuary from their caregiving challenges.

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Dr. Shulman, please contact the author at mail@elizabethshulman.com or 440-840-8375.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Shulman, D.Min., STNA has over 30 years of experience in both parish and healthcare ministry. Her devotions for caregivers have appeared in Guideposts’ Strength and Grace, and she frequently speaks to churches, retirement communities, and other community groups on dementia and caregiving. A spousal caregiver for 8 years, she trains congregations and other community groups to be more comfortable and confident in serving families impacted by dementia. Elizabeth’s presentations, Mary and Martha Caregiving and A New Pair of Glasses, inform audience members on the challenges of caregiving and offers hope to caregivers by providing new ways to reframe their experience. She and her husband, Leo, share 7 wonderful daughters and live near Cleveland, Ohio. To find out more, please visit her website: www.elizabethshulman.com.

More About This Title:

Finding Sanctuary in the Midst of Alzheimer’s: A Spiritual Guide for Families Facing Dementia, by Elizabeth Shulman, will be released by Morgan James Publishing on September 21, 2021. Finding Sanctuary — 978-1631954634 — has 156 pages and is being sold as a trade paperback for $12.99.

About Morgan James Publishing:

Morgan James publishes trade quality titles designed to educate, encourage, inspire, or entertain readers with current, consistent, relevant topics that are available everywhere books are sold.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the passing of Gen. Colin Powell

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My heart is heavy today with the news of the death of Colin Powell, former secretary of state, four-star general, and lifelong Episcopalian. I pray for his family and all his many loved ones, and I give thanks for his model of integrity, faithful service to our nation, and his witness to the impact of a quiet, dignified faith in public life.

Powell also dedicated himself to service in his retirement. I recall fondly having breakfast with him a couple years ago. He became energized and passionate about his work with the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, which is part of his alma mater, The City College of New York. 

He cared about people deeply. He served his country and humanity nobly. He loved his family and his God unswervingly. As Jesus says in the New Testament, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. 

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Declaración del obispo presidente Michael Curry en ocasión del fallecimiento del general Colin Powell, exsecretario de Estado

Hoy mi corazón está apesadumbrado con la noticia de la muerte de Colin Powell, exsecretario de Estado, general de cuatro estrellas y episcopal de toda la vida. Elevo mis oraciones por su familia y todos sus seres queridos, y doy gracias porque fue modelo de integridad, porque dio fiel servicio a nuestra nación y porque su vida fue testimonio del impacto que puede tener en la vida pública, una persona de fe calma y digna.

Powell siguió trabajando al servicio de otros incluso después de su jubilación. Recuerdo con cariño haber desayunado con él hace un par de años. Él sentía una gran energía y entusiasmo por su trabajo con la Escuela Colin Powell de Liderazgo Cívico y Global, que es parte de su alma mater, The City College of New York.

Se preocupaba profundamente por los demás. Sirvió a su país y a la humanidad con nobleza. Amaba a su familia y a su Dios con fe inquebrantable. Tal y como dijo Jesús en el Nuevo Testamento: “Bien, siervo bueno y fiel”.

Que descanse en paz y se eleve en gloria.

El Reverendísimo Michael Bruce Curry
Obispo Presidente y Primado
La Iglesia Episcopal

Methodist racial history recalled on 250th anniversary of Asbury’s US arrival

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The Rev. Mark Salvacion, center, speaks during a service at Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Photo by David Fonda, courtesy of HSG

The Rev. Mark Salvacion, center, speaks during a service at Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Photo by David Fonda, courtesy of HSG

[Religion News Service] Two and a half centuries ago, Francis Asbury arrived in the United States from Great Britain, bringing with him what would become the Methodist faith. He went on to spread it across the country, with St. George’s Church in Philadelphia as his home base.

St. George’s will mark the occasion of Asbury’s arrival with a weekend of events at the end of October. But the historic church, which remains the oldest continually used Methodist building in the United States, is also the starting point of three African American churches and one denomination after a “walkout” by Black worshippers.

Over time, recounts the Rev. Mark Salvacion, St. George’s current pastor, African Americans —some recently freed from slavery — were segregated to the sides of the church, to the back of the building and to a balcony, preventing them from receiving Communion on the church’s main floor.

Salvacion describes this and other parts of St. George’s history in the church’s “Time Traveler” program for teen confirmation students learning about their faith and in classes of middle-age adults training to become certified lay ministers.

Teen confirmation students attend a “Time Traveler” program at Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia in 2018. Photo courtesy of HSG

Teenage confirmation students attend a “Time Traveler” program at Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia in 2018. Photo courtesy of HSG

“It’s not just telling happy stories about Francis Asbury itinerating to West Virginia,” said Salvacion, pastor of what is now called Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church. “It’s uncomfortable stories about race and the meaning of race in the United Methodist Church.”

The turning point for many African American worshippers, already dissatisfied with mistreatment, was a Sunday morning in the late 1700s. Lay preacher Richard Allen saw another Black church leader, Absalom Jones, forcibly pulled up while praying on his knees at St. George’s.

That led Allen and some of the other Black attendees to leave what was then known as St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church and strike out on their own — in different ways.

Portraits of Absalom Jones, from left, Harry Hosier, Richard Allen in Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church museum in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of HSG

Portraits of Absalom Jones, from left, Harry Hosier and Richard Allen in Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church museum in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of HSG

“This raised a great excitement and inquiry among the citizens, in so much that I believe they were ashamed of their conduct,” wrote Richard Allen in his autobiography. “But my dear Lord was with us, and we were filled with fresh vigour to get a house erected to worship God in.”

In 1791, Allen, who had been a popular preacher at St George’s 5 a.m. service, started what is now Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Asbury dedicated its first building, a former blacksmith shop, in 1794.

“Here’s Asbury and he comes in and he still has this kind of relationship with Richard Allen that is more than just collegial,” the Rev. Mark Tyler, current pastor of Mother Bethel, said of the men who were the first bishops of the Methodist and AME churches, respectively.

“I mean, you go out of your way as the representative and the saint of Methodism in America and you dedicate Mother Bethel. That is a statement that you’re behind this and endorsing it.”

Bronze statue of Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, on the property of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia on July 6, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Bronze statue of Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, on the property of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia on July 6, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

In 1816, after winning a court battle for its independence from the Methodist Episcopal Church, Allen started the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the nation’s first Black denomination.

Jones went on to serve as a lay leader of the African Church that began in 1792. Two years later, the congregation became affiliated with The Episcopal Church and was renamed the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Jones was ordained a deacon in 1795 and a priest in 1802.

Arthur Sudler, director of the Historical Society & Archives at the 1,000-member church, said the 250th anniversary of Asbury’s U.S. arrival is significant not only for the three Philadelphia congregations that began after discord with St. George’s but also for the city and the three denominations they now represent.

“It’s an epochal moment simply because Francis Asbury’s role in helping develop Methodism in America, in part through his participation there at St. George’s, is one of those factors that gave birth to the Black Christian experience in Philadelphia,” he said. “And in America more broadly, because of the seminal role of Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, and Harry Hosier and their connections between what became these three denominations, the AME Church, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church.”

Service at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in 2019. Photo by Dale Williams for D'Zighner Studios

Service at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in 2019. Photo by Dale Williams for D’Zighner Studios

Hosier initially stayed at St. George’s with other Black attenders who did not leave with Jones and Allen. He also was a closer colleague to Asbury than the other two men, having been a traveling companion who preached with the Methodist leader across the South. Allen, a free man, had declined the offer, avoiding a risky return to the region of the country where slavery remained legal.

Hosier helped found another Philadelphia Methodist congregation, which initially met in people’s homes and eventually became known as Mother African Zoar United Methodist Church. Asbury dedicated its building in 1796 and preached there a number of times, according to the United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Archives and History.

After it celebrated its 225th anniversary, Mother Zoar retained its name but merged with New Vision United Methodist Church in north Philadelphia, with a current average of 75 people at in-person worship services. It thus remains the oldest Black congregation in the United Methodist tradition in continuous existence.

Portrait of Francis Asbury in 1813 by John Paradise. Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery/Creative Commons

Portrait of Francis Asbury in 1813 by John Paradise. Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery/Creative Commons

Given the steps of Allen and Jones, why did Hosier and other Black worshippers who once prayed at St. George’s remain within the Methodist Church?

“That is a million-dollar question,” said the Rev. William Brawner, the part-time pastor of Mother Zoar.

He said he assumes “those who left with Absalom, those who left with Richard were tired and figured that they could not change the system of injustice from the inside.” The founders of Zoar chose a different approach, hoping that remaining Methodist would help “change the hearts and minds of the people that were literally oppressing them.”

All these years later, Brawner said he does not judge the different decisions made by African American worshippers at St. George’s, who were unable to freely use spiritual practices that were different from those of white congregants and reflected beliefs some had brought with them from Africa.

“I think people left because of feeling uncomfortable and unaccepted in one place,” he said. “So the split could be celebrated now because of what has become of the split, but people didn’t split out of privilege. People split out of pain. They split because they were hurting.”

The emotions arising from the divisions transcended the centuries.

The Rev. Mark Tyler. Courtesy photo

The Rev. Mark Tyler. Courtesy photo

Tyler, whose church has more than 700 members today, recalled the 2009 service when congregants of Mother Bethel worshipped at St. George’s for what was believed to be the first joint Sunday morning service since the 1700s. As the preacher for that day, he said the gathering was a “cathartic moment,” prompting many of his church’s members to weep.

Salvacion and the clergy of the other churches say occasional joint gatherings have continued since then, such as some of the congregations sharing Easter sunrise services and the annual Episcopal Church observance honoring Absalom Jones.

St. George’s currently has about 15-20 worshippers and a membership of about 50. It expects dozens of United Methodists and invited guests from other churches to attend the Oct. 30-31 commemoration.

Its pastor also expects exchanges and shared events will continue in the future among the congregations whose first members left his church building.

“We all view this history as being common history that we share,” said Salvacion, an Asian man who is one of St. George’s first pastors of color.

Interior of Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of LOC/Creative Commons

Interior of Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of LOC/Creative Commons

Tyler said the ongoing connections between St. George’s and Mother Bethel probably weren’t envisioned by anyone two centuries ago.

“The current relationship of these two congregations is, in some ways, a sign of hope for what’s possible,” he said. “If it can happen in these two congregations maybe it’s possible for us as a country and as a world. I have to take it for what it is — just a small sign of hope, in spite of all the kind of guarded optimism that I have.”

This story was originally published by Religion News Service and is republished here with permission.

Seeking Volunteers at St. Barnabas

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We have many opportunities for parishioners to help!

  • Altar Guild – prepare and decorate the church for services
  • Acolytes – serve at the altar during worship
  • Greeters – greet visitors and hand out bulletins. Collect bulletins and tidy pews afteer service. Usher during Offertory and Communion
  • Music – Sing with the St. Barnabas Chorus during Sunday Services. Join us for upcoming holiday singing and caroling.
  • Sound Tech – run the tech and live feeds to Zoom and Facebook during Service
  • Grounds – help Althea and Violet keep up the church grounds. Volunteer on work days
  • Bulletins – prepare the bulletin for Sunday
  • Website – weekly updates to the web site – including linking the bulletin and service music (choir practice) for upcoming Sundays
  • Newsletters – add posts to the website for important church-related news, events, and announcements. Prepare and send the email newsletter
  • Vestry – Serve a term on our Vestry – elections are coming soon.

Reach out to a vestry member if you’d like to help!

Afro-Latinos Founded the City of Los Angeles

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Black settlers who founded Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California has a lot more Black history than most people realize. The city was founded in 1781 by a group of 44 Mexican settlers, and 26 of them were of African descent. Pío de Jesús Pico, who was of both African and American descent, was one of the first governors of the area that is now known as the city of Los Angeles. In fact, he served as the governor of Alta California twice and was even a councilman before his untimely death.

Even more, in 1872, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Los Angeles when emancipated Blacks began moving to the city in significant numbers towards the end of the Civil War. In 1885, the second Baptist Church for African Americans was built.

In the 1920’s, Paul Revere Williams, a famous Black architect credited for shaping Los Angeles, began designing homes and commercial buildings through out the cities.

Locations like Central Avenue became the focal point for African-American communities. In fact, Central Avenue was the location of the vibrant Los Angeles jazz scene that attracted such greats as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Bessie Smith. To date, the Dr. Ralph J. Bunche home, the first person of color to win the lauded Nobel Peace Prize, remains a landmark on Central Avenue.

The infamous Dunbar Hotel (originally known as the Hotel Somerville) on Central Avenue was completely financed and built solely by Black people. Known as one of the finest Black-owned hotels in the nation, it would often host major events such as the NAACP national conventions.

Today, Los Angeles remains one of the top cities in the countries where African Americans live, and Black history continues to be made in the areas of business, entertainment, politics, and more.

READ MORE

Wyoming Episcopalians look to welcome Afghans

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Afghan refugee girls watch a soccer match near where they are staying in the Village at the U.S. Army base in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, on Sept. 30, 2021. Photo: Barbara Davidson/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] As churches across the United States consider ways to welcome Afghan families who fled the Taliban in their home country, Episcopalians in Wyoming are making headlines for countering the state’s reputation as the only one in the nation never to have a formal refugee resettlement program.

The vestry at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper voted unanimously on Sept. 20 to begin researching the process for sponsoring an Afghan family. The church formed a committee to work with Episcopal Migration Ministries on a plan to provide for such needs as housing and job placements, as well as to offer fellowship and other support to these potential new neighbors.

“Most Afghan families want to go where there’s an Afghan community. There’s no community here,” said the Rev. Jim Shumard, rector at St. Mark’s, but he told Episcopal News Service that he and his congregation hope to change that. “We pray other local churches will sponsor other families so that we can build community together.”

Last week, St. Mark’s efforts were profiled in a Washington Post article that highlighted residents’ past reluctance to welcome refugees to this strongly conservative and mostly white state. In 2020, 70% of Wyoming voted in favor of President Donald Trump, who made opposition to legal and illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaigns and who, as president, reduced the number of refugees allowed into the United States to a historic low of 15,000.

On Friday, Oct. 8, President Joe Biden raised the refugee ceiling to 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year.

All of these refugees will need to find places to live, and as they settle in new communities, many will receive help from one of the nine agencies that are part of the federal refugee resettlement program, including Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM.

“EMM continues to work through our network of 11 affiliates to provide services to arriving Afghans,” Kendall Martin, EMM’s senior communications manager, told ENS by email. “The greatest need continues to be housing.” Donations can be made online to EMM’s Neighbors Welcome: Afghan Allies Fund, and congregations and individuals interested in offering housing or volunteering can complete EMM’s online form.

“We are aware that there are Episcopal congregations and leaders in Wyoming who care about this issue and wish for Wyoming to be a welcoming state,” Martin added.

Wyoming Bishop Paul-Gordon Chandler would also like to see his state open its door to refugees.

“As the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, we desire to be a faith community that welcomes the stranger and embraces the ‘other,’ following the example of Abraham, who is not just our ancestor, but the ancestor of all Afghan refugees,” Chandler said in an email message to ENS. “As Wyoming doesn’t have a federally funded resettlement program, it will require extra creativity and commitment to make this happen. We are currently exploring together all that this will entail and look forward to what God may have in store as we journey down this road toward sacred hospitality.”

After the 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan ended in August with the final withdrawal of American troops, an AP-NORC poll showed most Americans support welcoming Afghans who worked for the U.S. government and are open to welcoming others fleeing persecution from this country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. About 50,000 Afghans were allowed into the U.S. under what is known as humanitarian parole. Some may be able to apply for special immigrant visas, while others will apply for asylum.

Wyoming State Rep. Landon Brown, a Republican, told NPR this week that he supports welcoming Afghans but expects some resistance. “It’s a very difficult conversation to have here in Wyoming, strictly because of our small population and the fear of what that influx of immigrants may look like to our small population,” Brown said.

Wyoming, with 580,000 residents, is the least populous state in the country. It is nearly 84% white, not including Hispanic residents, compared to 60% of the United States population, according to the U.S. census. Of all U.S. residents, 14% were born in another country; in Wyoming that number is 3.4%.

While several neighboring Western states have offered to receive Afghan families, a spokesman for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said in August that he “has no interest” in doing the same. Gordon’s office told the Washington Post more recently that the governor was open to developing a process for faith groups to host evacuees.

Shumard said he has not received any negative response from parishioners or the local community to his congregation’s interest in sponsoring an Afghan family. The only “hate mail” he said he received was an email from an anti-Muslim critic from out of state who reacted to the Post article.

Shumard’s first experience with welcoming refugees dates back more than two decades to when he was serving at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Georgia. That congregation helped settle and support families from Bosnia. Shumard is confident that families from Afghanistan will feel just as welcomed by Wyoming residents. “I think there are enough voices that want it to happen, that it’s a great opportunity,” he said.

For Christians, that spirit of welcome is biblical, he said, citing Jesus’ command in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger. “It’s not only what Jesus would do,” he added. “It’s also a way to honor the work that our soldiers did. … They said they couldn’t do their job without these [Afghan] interpreters and allies. So few of us fought in Afghanistan or worked in Afghanistan. I feel this is a way for us to do our part.”

The committee at St. Mark’s is working with members of a missionary community called The Table to recruit enough volunteers to establish a viable welcoming team. Some already have started looking into options for housing and jobs, if and when they are able to introduce an Afghan family to Casper, a city of about 58,000.

As the congregation takes the process one step at a time, “I’m just sort of trusting the Spirit is working in this,” Shumard said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Los Angeles area congregations form mutual support partnership

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St. James’ Church in Newport Beach, California, collected school supplies for young members of its sister congregation, St. Michael’s in Anaheim, at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. Courtesy photo

[Diocese of Los Angeles] As churches reimagine post-pandemic ministry, two Southern California congregations hope a budding relationship will blossom into a full-fledged cross-cultural exchange.

For the Rev. Juan Jimenez, vicar of St. Michael’s Church in Anaheim, a bond forged with St. James’ Church in Newport Beach at the height of COVID-19 centered around “a goal to create some personal relationships between people in both congregations that would allow us to understand each other better. In this society, we really need that, and we need that in the church,” he said.

“We are two very different congregations, but we’re all members of the Body of Christ – and yet we’re all so different.”

Pre-COVID, Jimenez, 76, had led four Sunday worship services – two in Spanish and two in English – for about 400 congregants. The English-language services were intended for second- and third-generation Latinos, he said.

The pandemic decimated the congregation. At least 14 members died and many more became ill while others – employed in the service industry and by Disneyland – lost their jobs when restaurants and entertainment venues closed. Challenges continue to mount for many, since the eviction moratorium for renters ended Sept. 30, he said.

The Rev. Juan Jiménez, pictured here at a “Called to the Wall” pilgrimage, is vicar of St. Michael’s Church in Anaheim. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

In Newport Beach, some 20 miles away but a world apart, about 9% of the population is Latino, compared to Anaheim’s 54%. Anaheim’s 2019 per-capita income was $28,465. About 24% of Anaheim residents are white, compared to 80% in Newport Beach, which boasted a 2019 per-capita income of $95,404.

“I was serving on the Program Group on Mission Congregations and heard St. Michael’s was struggling financially, yet was a thriving parish with an ASA of 400-plus,” said the Rev. Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar. “Then the weight of the pandemic hit about 80% of the congregation with cuts in the service industry where they worked. I felt St. James would respond to their circumstances, and they did. I proposed the sister congregation relationship to Fr. Juan, and then to my congregation, in the fall of 2020. All were in agreement – we were in this together.”

Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce facilitated the partnership, which has since evolved into mutual moral support as well as financial and other assistance, Jimenez said.

“God was probably behind it,” he added. “Financially, they are helping with $1,000 a month; it’s a lifesaver. At the beginning of the school year they donated backpacks and school supplies for our kids. That was very helpful.”

Voorhees said what began as a desire to help St. Michael’s quickly progressed into a bond of mutual support “that has become really important to both Fr. Juan and me now.”

The two congregations were also linked through mutual loss and grief, she said.

The Rev. Cindy Voorhees greets members after a service at St. James’ Church, Newport Beach, where she serves as vicar. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

“St. James had a death a week from the end of October 2020 to the end of January 2021,” Voorhees recalled. “There were three suicides and an infant death.” Turning to Jimenez for collegial friendship and support was beneficial, she said.

“Some of the key values of St. James are being in community, inclusivity, loving our neighbor, and serving Christ,” she added. “We try to live out these values in our local, national, and international world. St. Michael’s has been especially important to St. James as a local neighbor who is part of our Episcopal family. We have grown in many ways from the relationship by including St. Michael’s in our spiritual journey and hopefully they have too.”

Bruce said the pairing is a wonderful example of collaborative ministry.

“One of the joys of my work as a bishop has been connecting people who might not otherwise know about each other’s ministry,” Bruce said in an email. “This was the case with St. Michael’s and St. James’. Having had conversations with both Fr. Jimenez and Canon Voorhees, I saw the Spirit moving – and I could see the great benefit for both congregations collaborating together and sharing their many gifts and skills. It was a blessing to introduce the two congregations through their talented and gifted clergy.”

“This type of collaborative ministry allows both congregations to grow individually and together – each sharing their unique gifts of time, talent and treasure. I saw this type of collaboration work extremely well in the Philippines – where the byproduct of the collaboration was the deepening and strengthening of ministries in both congregations and their growth in membership of each of the churches. St. Michael’s and St. James are a wonderful example in this diocese of how this pairing can and should be done.”

There are plans for a pulpit exchange, joint worship services, a summer fiesta and other activities to foster understanding among the congregations. St. James continues to contribute $1,000 a month to St. Michael’s and plans to continue the practice in 2022, Voorhees said.

“I would like to encourage other churches – even if they only give $100 a month, that would be $1,200 a year and it would help.”

Voorhees’ expertise as an architect and general contractor came in handy during preliminary conversations as Habitat for Humanity explored the possibility of erecting affordable housing on the church’s property.

“They (Habitat) are looking at some viable opportunities there. It’s just in the beginning stages, but they are thinking it could be a win-win for both the church and for Habitat. It’s been fun to work with each other.”

“The bottom line is, we felt called to help and we wanted a sister relationship and so far it’s worked out really well,” Voorhees said. “We wish we could get COVID behind us so we could do a little more. I would like to encourage other churches to consider this.”

Jimenez agreed. “The future of the church depends on partnering together as the Body of Christ. That’s what we do to help each other, and give to the body whatever gifts have been given to us. That is the way the church is going to grow. We live in such a fragmented society; the church is fragmented. If we cannot get our act together, we are in big trouble.”

Haiti’s diverse faiths bolster it against waves of tragedy

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Haiti

Residents forced from their home by the earthquake that hit Haiti carry food away from a stadium used as a shelter in Les Cayes on Aug. 23. Photo: Reuters

[Religion News Service] Within hours of the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s Tiburon Peninsula in August, faith-based aid workers were on the scene, comforting victims and helping to pull survivors from the rubble, then providing food and water.

“The most important thing in a disaster can be human contact,” said the Rev. Clement Joseph, head of the state-founded Social Mission of the Haitian Churches and secretary-general for Religions for Peace-Haiti.

“Helping people to realize they are not alone, that help is on the way, that increases their reliance and their willingness to fight,” Joseph said.

Joseph, who spoke on Wednesday (Oct. 6) at Religions for Peace’s international conference in Lindau, Germany, sees religion playing a key role in confronting Haiti’s many challenges.

“Our faith has taught us to never give up. It gives us the strength to persevere,” he said. “We know that we need peace in order to develop as a country, and religious leaders can help achieve peace.”

The last several months have been catastrophic for Haiti. The Aug. 14 earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead, followed by Tropical Depression Grace two days later. The country’s political sector has been in disarray since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home in July. The upheaval has worsened the effect of the pandemic, which has killed 22,000 people officially, but surely more in a country where a small percentage of the population has access to medical care.

When the pandemic hit, Haiti had not fully recovered from a cholera epidemic that started after a major 2010 earthquake and major hurricanes in 2010 (Hurricane Thomas) and 2016 (Matthew).

Despite billions in aid over the last generation — the 2010 earthquake alone resulted in $13 billion in aid, predominantly from the United States and Canada — the country remains the poorest in the Americas. In its 2020 survey, the World Bank ranked Haiti 170th out of 189 countries in its Human Development Index.

Religious groups in the country are attempting to make aid more effective. In his remarks in Lindau, Joseph said that Social Mission of the Haitian Churches has trained some 12,000 young people over the last 15 years and sponsored initiatives to distribute aid through women — who, studies say, are less likely to misspend the resources.

But as important as spiritual institutions’ material help has been, Joseph said, religion also helps give locals the strength to avoid despair and survive what appears to be wave after wave of tragedy.

“Despite everything, Haiti still has its faith,” he said. “We are a very religious country.”

Not just religious, but also religiously diverse. Joseph said the country has thriving communities of Protestants and Catholics, as well as practitioners of the Bahá’í faith and Indigenous Vodou traditions. Combined, he said, there was one religious leader for about every 700 residents of Haiti. According to surveys, 85% of Haitians see religion as “very important” in their day-to-day lives, among the highest levels for a secular state.

Recognizing the importance of religion in keeping the country together when all other systems seemed to fail, Religions for Peace has worked to shore up Haitians’ faith. In the wake of Moïse’s assassination, Religions for Peace-Haiti issued an open letter to the people of Haiti that said the organization wanted to “invoke the soul of this great nation for resilience, tolerance, dialogue, peace, and reconciliation at a time of crisis.”

The signees of the letter — Catholic Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas, Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Oge Beauvoir, Supreme Chief of Haitian Voodoo Manbo Euvonie Auguste Georges, and Joseph — stated that they were “proud to be citizens of this country, sharing our aspiration for freedom, respect for human dignity, and dedication to foundational values and principles on which our nation was built.”

Church’s solidarity among Indigenous peoples in Minnesota shines light on long-ignored history of exploitation

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Mike Kornezos, a member of the Bois Forte Nation, and Thomas Jones, of Leech Lake, having been harvesting wild rice together on Minnesota’s lakes and waterways for about a decade. Kornezos is junior warden at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cass Lake. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Bemidji, Minnesota] In mid-August, Mike Kornezos and his longtime ricing partner Thomas Jones were out on the lakes checking the readiness of wild rice. Harvested in early fall, wild rice – along with fish, wild berries, migratory ducks and garden-grown vegetables – has long sustained the Anishinaabe, as the Indigenous peoples of northern Minnesota are called.

Hot days, cold nights make for the best conditions, they said. In the following weeks, they would spend most mornings on the lakes in a canoe: Kornezos standing at the stern like a gondolier with long metal pole forked at the end to better use the muddy surface below as he propelled the boat along the water; Jones kneeling using the “knockers,” the smoothly carved sticks, one to hold the rice stalk steady, the other extended in one smooth, swift extension of the forearm from the elbow to thrush the rice kernel into the bottom of the boat.

A protein-rich plant, wild rice historically has grown in abundance in northern Minnesota,

NATIVE VOICES DISCUSSION

The Office of Indigenous Ministries will host, “Native Voices: A Response to The Episcopal Church’s History with Indian Boarding Schools” on Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. Eastern. For more information or to register, click here.

a region of pine forests, peatlands, rivers and lakes; it’s a cultural and culinary mainstay of the Anishinaabe, who across the Upper Great Lakes region are also known as Chippewa and Ojibwe.

“We produce more rice here, naturally, than we do anywhere else in the states,” said Elaine Fleming, an instructor at Leech Lake Tribal College, a Cass Lake community college where she teaches Anishinaabe studies and Leech Lake Nation history and nationhood, as well as survey courses on Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

“We are a nation, not a reservation,” Fleming made clear in an interview with Episcopal News Service from her home in Cass Lake on the Leech Lake reservation. “And a nation,” she said, “has four elements: language and culture, history, a land base and its own governance. When I teach, I like to break things up like that so they [students] can understand themselves as a nation. In the fall, ricing is part of that. In the spring, it’s sugarbush.”

The ability to feed itself—to have food sovereignty—is part of being a nation, she said.

In June, Episcopalians from across the United States joined with the Anishinaabe in a non-violent protest at the headwaters of the Mississippi River – Bear Creek as the Anishinaabe call it – to try to stop the pipeline. Beginning in 2016 with the Dakota Access Pipeline and the camp at Standing Rock, North Dakota, The Episcopal Church has joined interfaith solidarity actions as Indigenous peoples and other “water protectors” have stood up to multinational corporations’ energy exploration, drilling and transportation infrastructure projects. These non-violent actions have centered on water quality; they’re also about human rights violations and the rights of sovereign nations. The church also has stood with Native Alaskans, the Gwich’in, in their struggle to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil exploration and development. Oil drilling in the refuge poses a threat to Porcupine caribou, animals the Gwich’in depend on for food and cultural survival.

General Convention sets The Episcopal Church’s priorities. Its solidarity with the Anishinaabe is fixed in a 2018 resolution reaffirming the church’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and support for Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty over territorial resources. The resolution specifically noted the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s concerns regarding the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. When the Anishinaabe ceded territory to the U.S. government in 1855, they did so with the understanding that they would maintain their rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice on the land.

With more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesota and Lake Superior hold a fifth of the world’s freshwater. Wild Rice has historically grown in abundance here. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

On Oct. 1, after a six-year legal and regulatory battle, the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline became operational. The $9.3 billion, 338-mile pipeline replacement and expansion project carries oil across northern Minnesota, where 85% of Minnesota’s Indigenous population now live on a patchwork of reservations. The pipeline runs along reservations and ceded treaty lands. With more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesota and Lake Superior hold a fifth of the world’s freshwater. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has given Enbridge permission to use 4.5 billion gallons of groundwater annually.

“When people like Enbridge come in, we will battle them,” Fleming said. “We have a say about what they are doing with the land and what happens with the water, and it’s not just about us. Everybody needs the water to be clean and useable, so we’re not just fighting for Leech Lake or White Earth. We are fighting for the land and for the people.”

Thomas Jones demonstrates how the “knockers” are used to thresh the wild rice from the stalk. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

When European settlers first arrived in North America, Indigenous peoples by some estimates numbered in the millions. By the 1890s, warfare, disease and starvation had decimated the tribes, and some 249,000 remained in the United States. Those who survived the genocide lost territory when they signed treaties designed to open the land to logging, mining, homesteaders and farming. Forced from their land, Indigenous peoples began to lose access to the fish and game, plants and berries that sustained them. When the U.S. government began issuing rations to reservations, further disrupting Indigenous peoples’ cultural and culinary traditions, the government used food and harvest season as a tactic.

“They would give us food, and a lot of times the food didn’t come on time. Sometimes the food was rotten. They would be selling [us] the food so they could profit off of it,” Fleming said. “But the one thing we could always depend on was the rice … Rice is something you can keep. For at least 10 years, it’ll be good. They understood that, and when they were treating with us, they would hold their treaty meetings in the fall purposely to influence us to sign treaties – like the Nelson Act – because they knew we wanted to get home, that we needed to be ricing.”

The Nelson Act became law in January 1889. It attempted to relocate all the Anishinaabe in Minnesota to the White Earth Reservation in the western part of the state. The expropriated land went to the timber industry and white settlers. The remaining Indigenous lands were further divided into family allotments that encouraged subsistence farming and commodity food consumption, undermining the Anishinaabe way of life.

The Anishinaabe’s “stories, mythology and cosmology all centered on honor and respect – and to this day they are fighting for the federal government to honor treaties,” the Rev. Matthew Cobb, a priest a diocese the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, told ENS. For the last four years, he has been based in Bemidji, a “border town,” at the center of three nations’ reservations extending like a wishbone with Red Lake due north, White Earth to the southwest, and Leech Lake to the southeast. He has learned to speak Ojibwe and serves three Indigenous congregations and one predominantly white, Scandinavian-heritage congregation. Cobb wrote the 2018 resolution.

Mike Kornezos, a member of the Bois Forte Nation, talks about how wild rice is a source of protein and a mainstay of the Anishinaabe diet. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The first Episcopal missionary arrived in Minnesota in 1828. The diocese was founded in 1857 and two years later, in 1859, Bishop Henry B. Whipple was elected and moved his family from Chicago’s South Side to Faribault, 50 miles south of Minneapolis. Whipple quickly established himself as a force, a successful mediator between the warring Dakota and Ojibwe tribes. As he moved his ministry north, “he controlled the territory, the missionaries of any denomination that operated in the territory,” Cobb told ENS.

“He wielded a lot of temporal and spiritual power … People recognized him as a holy man and someone they could trust. He was given an Ojibwe name meaning ‘straight talk.’ He was seen as an honest man who didn’t talk out of both sides of his mouth,” Cobb said.

Whipple saw the treaties as “covenants between the U.S. government and the Anishinaabe,” Cobb explained, and he served as a negotiator between the two as settlers and the timber industry arrived in the state.

“[So] the treaties are signed and right from the beginning they were fraudulent. Right from the beginning, Whipple says in his autobiography, the whole process the Commission on Indian Affairs was involved in was fraudulent, and, of course, he was complicit … and that was the moral duress he was under at the end of his life,” Cobb said.

Cobb expressed hope that Episcopalians can use their baptismal vows and the Eucharist, its common table, to help them confront the church’s involvement in the exploitation of Indigenous peoples and their land.

“If we were to begin to face it, we would then be able to work through that shame and get to a place of courageously honoring the treaties and respecting the dignity of every human being like it says in the baptismal covenant,” he said. “For me, the violation of that treaty rights is also a violation of our baptismal rites. And so right and rite are very closely linked.”

Fleming, who is not an Episcopalian, when asked what Episcopalians can do to become better allies, said this: “They need to learn about us … That means learning about the treaties and their violation, learning the truth about what happened in the boarding schools, the man camps, Enbridge Line 3 – and how they’ve taken the water out. But it also means learning about the people and what they’ve accomplished.

The murals at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cass Lake on the Leech Lake Nation signal cultural inclusion. Photo: Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

“Like for our people, I think we’re pretty spectacular. We’re the ‘shining people,’ because traditionally, we had this philosophy and relationship with the Earth and the skies. And it was about respect,” Fleming said. “Learn the real history of the peoples, not just about us here but wherever you live. Understand what happened to the Indigenous peoples there so that you can teach that to your own compatriots.”

Then, she said, advocate for changes to the education system to teach about Indigenous peoples and the true history of what happened in the United States of America.

“I think in America, they all need to know the history of our peoples, the genocide of our peoples, and then what we’ve done to heal,” Fleming said. “You don’t need to come to try to heal us, you need to heal yourselves, your own minds, your own souls, and respect the world.”

The Episcopal Church repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery in 2009, joining a wider movement among Christian denominations at a time when few people understood its premise, said the Rev. Brad Hauff, The Episcopal Church’s Indigenous missioner, who is a member of the Lakota Nation.

“How can you repudiate something when you don’t even know what it is?” he said. For instance, he added, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the God-given unalienable rights given to all humans and upheld in the Declaration of Independence did not apply to “the merciless Indian savages,” according to Thomas Jefferson.

“I think a lot of people have never read the Declaration of Independence,” Hauff said. Its denigration of Indigenous peoples “has tended to be pushed aside or ignored. People don’t talk about it. But recently, people have been talking about it, that Jefferson really was a proponent of these genocidal processes.”

Thomas Jones determines the wild rice’s readiness. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Examining history from the cultural perspective of Indigenous peoples requires people to be willing to look critically at American and Episcopal Church history, while at the same time having the integrity to examine themselves from within, Hauff said. “In America today, even in The Episcopal Church, there are a number of people who are just fine with the traditional Columbus-discovery, Manifest Destiny-narrative. That’s their narrative. They’re proud of it, they don’t want it to change. They want Columbus Day to stay Columbus Day, not to become Indigenous Peoples Day. And these people are very vocal and politically active right now.”

Hauff noticed a shift take place nationally and in the church around 2018, around the same time General Convention called for education around the Doctrine of Discovery. By 2019, some dioceses had begun adding Indigenous Peoples Day to their calendars. Absent a formal federal declaration, Americans increasingly refer to the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. The Episcopal Church recently endorsed legislation supporting it as a federal holiday.

Last week, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined his Lutheran and Anglican counterparts in North America to designate Sept. 30 as a day of commemoration, truth and healing in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. In a statement, the leaders recognized that the churches’ repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery begins with telling the truth; and that both U.S. and Canadian education systems perpetuate white supremacy by teaching narratives that glorify settlers’ contributions to building societies and delete or ignore those of Native Americans and First Nations peoples.

Earlier this year in July following the discovery of unmarked graves at a Canadian boarding school, Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings condemned the schools, describing instances of forcible removal of children from their homes, forced assimilation and physical abuse as a “cultural genocide” that sought to erase their identity. They acknowledged that The Episcopal Church was associated with residential schools in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries, and said the church needs to understand the legacy and commit to truth and reconciliation. The church also supported federal legislation that would establish a formal commission to investigate, document and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian boarding school policies.

Like Fleming, Hauff stressed that American history and Indigenous peoples’ place in it include historic contributions. For instance, Fleming said, 75% of the vegetables grown today were first cultivated by Indigenous peoples in North and South America.

“We had cities,” she said. “You cannot feed yourselves by hunting and gathering when you have a city of 40,000 people. So in summer, we garden.”

Hauff stressed how Indigenous and European-American worldviews differ.

One of the murals at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cass Lake pays tribute to U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

“Indigenous people do not teach human dominance. We see humankind as having a place in the ecosystem of the universe. But it’s not a place of dominance, we do not have the right and we are not free to change the order of things as has been set by the Great Spirit. The Euro-American worldviews differ from that,” he said. “I believe that is why we’re seeing what is happening to our planet, and to our climate… the consequences of what happens when you teach and practice human dominance. Indigenous people have a lot to teach the dominant society about that if the dominant society would only listen. I don’t believe that we’d be in the situation that we’re in right now, with regard to the planet and the climate, if human dominance were not taught.”

Though General Convention sets the church’s priorities, much of the work happens locally. Minnesota Bishop Craig Loya joined the solidarity action in June and then, in mid-August, spent a week in residence in the state’s northwest, including Bemidji, Brainerd, Rice Lake, Cass Lake, Red Lake and Leech Lake. He visited congregations and met with tribal leaders to learn about Anishinaabe history and culture, to connect more deeply with the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s Indigenous faith communities, and to listen and learn about both the beauty and challenges of those communities today.

“It has been such a gift to spend time with these communities, hearing stories from the past and from today. Our indigenous congregations are particularly gifted at sharing Christian life together, from baptisms to funerals and from harvest time to the dinner table. I have felt welcomed not just into worship services, but into full, rich, communal lives. I can’t wait to share that story more widely around the diocese,” Loya told Episcopal News Service during a conversation in Bemidji.

As part of his residence, the bishop spent a day with a tribal conservation officer learning about the wild rice harvest and features of the land, and how they connect to Anishinaabe history and culture. They talked about Enbridge Line 3’s threat to wild rice, the way of life centered around the rice harvest and its role, past and present, in sustaining both life and culture.

“It’s not just about the land itself but about the peoples’ generations-long relationship to the land, and to the plants and animals that populate it. That profound recognition of our interconnectedness with creation is another story I’m excited to tell,” Loya said. 

-Lynette Wilson is a journalist and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.